15:28 GMT19 October 2020
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    US President Donald Trump said Thursday that he wanted to have US troops in Afghanistan home by Christmas, after 19 years of combat in the Middle East. The assertion reportedly caught many military and civil officials by surprise and is seen by some Democrats as a way for Trump to gain additional points prior to the 3 November election.

    Leaders of the Afghan militant group, the Taliban, said on Saturday that they hoped US President Donald Trump would beat Democratic rival, Joe Biden, in the US general election in November.

    "We hope he will win the election and wind up [the] US military presence in Afghanistan," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told CBS News in a phone interview, 

    An unnamed Taliban leader reportedly told the outlet that the group was worried about Trump's health after he tested positive for coronavirus. "When we heard about Trump being COVID-19 positive, we got worried for his health, but seems he is getting better."

    Trump on Thursday tweeted that he wanted to have US troops in Afghanistan home by Christmas, as the US has been involved in a war in the nation for 19 years.

    Trump expanded on his idea to Fox Business Network. "Nineteen years is enough, they're acting as policemen, they're not acting as troops, we have the greatest troops in the world. I wiped out 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate, I killed [Quds force commander Qasem] Soleimani, I killed [ISIS leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi," the president declared.

    Trump's withdrawal proposal was a surprise to administration officials and would complicate peace talks, according to the Associated Press. Senior US military leaders previously cast doubt on the practicalities of an earlier withdrawal. 

    The peace talks were set up under a withdrawal agreement signed earlier this year between the Taliban and the Trump administration.

    The US-Taliban deal laid out a full departure of American forces by May 2021, but only if conditions on counter-terrorism were met

    “What we need to see is that they’re not going to allow al-Qaida to base there,” said Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, in a September interview with NBC News. “And that has just not yet been demonstrated to my satisfaction.”

    Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Pentagon is on track to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by spring of 2021.

    The US invaded Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as the head of the terrorist group Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, was believed to be hiding in the country at the time. The Taliban were quickly removed from power but continued over the past two decades as a dominant guerrilla force, consistently seizing territory and attacking government and civilian targets, while the US and its allies struggled to stop the collapse of its government in Afghanistan.


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    Taliban, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, talks, Afghanistan, US
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